After two decades in music, Wade Ogle is writing and performing again

By Brian Washburn

ffw 0114 coverBob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Tom Petty, Conor Oberst. Just a few of the music industry’s songwriting outlaws who detail personal, social and story-like songs spanning generations and the folk/rock genre.

Wade Ogle is Fayetteville’s songwriting outlaw. At the age of 45, Ogle has played all over the country, created music for more than two decades, been in an influential local band and given the Fayetteville music scene music and inspiration to be relished.

With a new album about to be released and a regional tour on the horizon, it looks as if Ogle is ready to solidify himself as a constant presence in the Northwest Arkansas music scene; an attribute that could even certify him as a local music legend.

Ogle will release the follow-up to his locally successful debut full-length album “Songs From Winter” this month. But while the new album — “Lovers and Fighters” — displays much of the dark, brooding folk rock found on his previous efforts, Ogle travels down a slightly different path by ignoring the outlaw storytelling lyricism of his first solo album, and instead, reaches into his past musical experiences and personal life to give a more timeless, unique album.

“My influences didn’t change on this album. The core people I identify with and the core music is the same; folk, country and blues. But part of something I do that upsets the folk genre, with all those years playing experimental music, I try to let those elements in there, as well,” Ogle said.

“It always starts with a song on the acoustic guitar, but when I was playing solo shows in 2008, I experimented with having ambient reverb and loops. Usually, folk doesn’t have many nontraditional elements, but I tried to experiment with the acoustic guitar and what you normally see in folk music.”

Regular listeners of the folk genre might find it a bit odd to find psychedelic elements mixed in with the music, but for those familiar with Ogle’s musical resume, it should not come as a surprise.

In 1987, Ogle began his live music career with his band Declaration of Love with a couple of other local musicians. This band would eventually morph into The Faith Healers; a local psychedelic staple that helped bring the bursting Fayetteville underground music culture into focus at a time when the disaffected scene was being ignored and the bar mainstays were mostly middle-of-the-road, Ogle said.

However, The Faith Healers did not just sit still in Fayetteville’s underground scene, Ogle and his band mates traveled all over the country with the likes of fellow experimental bands The Butthole Surfers and The Flaming Lips. But after more than a decade of traveling in a van, Ogle decided to take a hiatus from the music world.

“We toured for 13 or 14 years where you would just get in the van and go,” Ogle said. “When you’re younger, you don’t really have a big goal, it’s just something you feel like you have to do. In 2000, I just sort of stopped and in that seven-year period I got married and had kids. I think I did it so intensely, so single-mindedly that I kind of arrived at the point where I just didn’t want to do it at all. I felt like I completely exhausted the mystery of making music. I kind of went from being young and naive and only responsible for myself, to a different point where my life was no longer just about me, and that sort of coincided with stepping out of music for a while.”

In the time period that Ogle decided to hang up his musical aspirations, he also discovered a new creative beginning; one that would inspire him to make more timeless, genuine music. Ogle looks back on those early years of being in bands, and while he admits they were really great live theatrical performances, the songwriting was not always that great.

“I just wanted to write more genuine songs and really become a better songwriter, and now I’m finding a way to have that and also, where it sounds right, add in those elements that other more traditional folk songwriters might not be open to,” Ogle said.

The psychedelic element in Ogle’s folk songs is not the change he has made since his last album. In fact, unlike other artists who take several years in between releases, Ogle set deadlines and goals for writing, recording, mastering and releasing Lovers and Fighters.

“On the first record I found it a little easier, because I hadn’t played in about seven years, to write these story and character type songs … and this one I guess is more personal,” Ogle said. “I’m not trying to compare myself to Dylan or Cohen, but I sort of see myself working in a similar fashion where, while I have the live band, it’s not like Led Zeppelin where you know every sound on the record was generated by these four guys. On a Dylan or Cohen record it’s about the songs and the listener maybe doesn’t spend this time dissecting who played what on the record or who is “in the band.” It’s more about the music and the songs. I see myself working with that aesthetic.”

“Lovers and Fighters” might be completed, but Ogle still has goals and deadlines in 2010. He plans on hitting the road for the first time in almost a decade with his new trio called Wade Ogle and The Sea Shall Free Them (Tyler Bame and James Cohea).

A regional tour is already in the works, but if the demand is there and the possibility arrives, Ogle would like to extend the regional tour into a national outing. However, the biggest difference in Ogle touring now and a decade ago is his family, which he says will not prevent him from doing a national tour if the right situation comes along. After playing full-band sets and solo shows in the next few months, Ogle would like to return to writing and recording at some point this summer.

With a new album, tour and even more writing planned for later this year, it seems the Fayetteville musician spends a majority of his time working on his music, but this is not the case. Ogle has a day job to support his family, and even with the pressure from bands around the nation to hit it big in the music industry, Ogle has not seen any sustainable monetary reward for his music since his career began more than two decades ago, yet he will continue his musical venture as long as he possibly can.

“I’ve always taken the philosophy that if it only ever cost me money, time and effort to do, would I still do it? And the answer is yes. If there was no reward and if no one ever heard it would I still play and the answer is yes,” Ogle said. I feel freed from any pressure to make it big.”

Time will only tell if Ogle will evolve into Fayetteville’s Leonard Cohen — a genuine songwriter working his craft until the very end. But with Lovers and Fighters it seems like Ogle is moving into that direction.

Musicians on “Lovers and Fighters” are: Wade Ogle, vocals, acoustic guitars, electric guitars, bass guitar, harmonica, bells, electric piano; Joe Katzbeck, piano, organ; Paul Boatright, floor tom, ride cymbal; Dwight Chalmers, hand percussion. Recorded at Chateau ‘Gle AND mixed at Listen Labs.

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